Big doesn’t always mean best!
Title: The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever
Author: Beatrice Ojakangas
Publish Date: 2008
Brief description: From classic meat and veg casseroles like Tuna Noodle Casserole with Mushrooms and Fresh Herbs (pg 375) to “is that really a casserole?”dishes like Hot Broccoli Slaw (pg 395) there is something (probably many somethings) here for everyone. Lots of vegetarian dishes and ethnic recipes. The sections of the book are organized by casserole type including (but not limited to) Appetizers, Casserole Breads, Breakfast, Poultry, Beef, Pasta, Grain & Legume, Side Dish, Casseroles for Two, and Dessert Casseroles. There are a lot of references to Minnesota “Hot Dish”, so don’t expect very many “fine dining” style recipes – if that is your “thing”.
Amount and quality of pictures: One of the biggest problems that I have with this book is that there are only 16 pictures in this 640 page book. Those that are included are beautiful and really make you wonder why the publishers decided not to include more pictures. After all, you eat first with your eyes!
Ease of recipes: I did find a few instances where the directions were a bit vague, mostly when it came to stove temperatures. Novice cooks need more direction than just “saute”. I would say that this book is aimed at an intermediate level cook for that reason.
Common or exotic ingredients: Nothing fancy here. This is homestyle, comfort food. The recipes cover a wide range of cuisines from Italian to Moroccan so there are a few mildly exotic ingredients such as the kasseri cheese found in the recipe for Turkish Lamb Stew and Sultan’s Delight (pg 296). That being said, with over 500 recipes, you wouldn’t miss much if you had to skip one or two.
Nutritional information included: None to speak of. This is probably due to the author’s technique of offering substitutions for many of the recipes (heavy cream for sour cream, leave out the cheese if you wish, etc.). With the vast number of ingredients in many of the recipes, and the fact that casseroles by their very nature lack built-in portion sizes, you are going to find it very difficult to know how many calories are in your serving of Mushroom-Stuffed Croissant Casserole (pg 115).
Ease of use (format): This is a really big book, heavy too. To be honest, it is hard to handle. Many recipes in a section are small variations on a previous recipe. I think it would have been smarter (and saved a few trees) if the author would have listed variations on the basic recipe instead. I do like how the ingredients are listed on the right side of the recipe with the directions to the left (instead of at the top of the recipe like you usually find). I also believe that almost every recipe is contained on one page, which is really helpful when you’ve checked the book out from the library and are making illegal copies of recipes at work. Not that I’d do that… Additionally, as discussed above, the book is organized by style of casserole. It would have been nice to have a cross reference by cuisine so that you could put together an Italian meal or potluck. With so many recipes the organization is a bit lean and the index, with recipes listed alphabetically mixed with “by ingredient”, is very confusing. An example of that is Bell Pepper and Sausage Strata (pg 118) is indexed under “sausage – Bell Pepper and Sausage Strata”, “Bell Pepper and Sausage Strata”, and (you guessed it) “Strata – Bell Pepper and Sausage Strata”. Ugh!
Tools, Tricks, Techniques: There is a small section in the beginning of the cookbook (only four pages) that discusses casserole basics such as cookware, freezing and thawing casseroles, assembling casseroles, and “tools for your kitchen”. I didn’t find anything in there earth-shattering. Additionally, one of the main points of the book is to return to “homemade” sauces (as opposed to can soups and premade sauces). To that point there is a very comprehensive chapter on sauces including White (pg 18), Bechamel (pg 21), and Savory Tomato Sauce (pg 23).
Recipe I can’t wait to try: Roasted Sweet Onions with Herbs and Gruyere (pg 441). In a word, wow.
Recipe I would never try: Spiced Hazelnut Barley Casserole (pg 337) definitely sounds like something hippies would eat.
The last word: If someone gave me this book for Christmas, I’d probably be pretty happy. I can see myself flipping through it for inspiration (I did find the section on breakfast casseroles to be interesting. That being said, if I was looking to buy a book on casseroles, I think I could do better for my money.
Rating: 🙂 🙂 1/2